Adopting a Cross-Cultural Approach To The Study of Organisational Behaviour

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Another advantage of adopting a cross-cultural approach to the study of organisational behaviour, and to the management of people more generally, lies in the recognition of variations in workplace attitudes and behaviour between individuals and groups in different cultural contexts.

Broeways and Price note that characteristics defining each cultural group can offer international managers considerable insights in terms of co-operation with organisations from new and different cultural backgrounds. Given that people brought up in diverse cultures frequently work together in the same workplace, we could go further in claiming that all managers operating in domestically-based work settings should have such insights. If we accept this fundamental point then it follows that key topics within the subject area of organisational behaviour may be influenced by national culture and that we should therefore re-evaluate models and concepts when applying them to other societies.

One leading writer in the field of cross-cultural studies, Trompenaars, commenting on his own work, suggests: ‘It helped managers to structure their experiences and provided new insights for them and their organisations into the real source of problems faced when managing across cultures or dealing with diversity.’66 In examining the centrally important topic of motivation, Francesco and Gold inform their readers: ‘Managers must develop organizational systems that are flexible enough to take into account the meaning of work and the relative value of rewards within the range of cultures where they operate.’

A practical example of the impact of cultural diversity in the organisational behaviour area is provided in the recollections of an international human resource manager cited in Schneider and Barsoux: ‘Indonesians manage their culture by a group process, and everyone is linked together as a team. Distributing money differently among the team did not go over all that well; so we’ve come to the conclusion that pay for performance is not suitable for Indonesia.’ It may be extremely useful therefore to examine academic frameworks and research findings within the field of organisational behaviour to indicate the extent to which they are applicable worldwide or, alternatively, subject to meaningful variation in different cultural contexts.

While it can be valuable to apply organisational behaviour concepts to diverse cultural settings, it should also be borne in mind that some universal theories and models may, in reality, contain important culturally derived assumptions. When examining classical frameworks for understanding organisation structure, Schneider and Barsoux point out: ‘Theories about how best to organise – Max Weber’s (German) bureaucracy, Henri Fayol’s (French) administrative model, and Frederick Taylor’s (American) scientific management – all reflect societal concerns of the times as well as the cultural background of the individuals.’69 That writers on work organisations may themselves be influenced by their own cultural backgrounds when compiling their work is unsurprising: however, equally it should not be ignored.

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